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Old Literature and its Enemies

Claude Rawson, 25 April 1991

The Death of Literature 
by Alvin Kernan.
Yale, 230 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 0 300 04783 5
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Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopedia, Genealogy and Tradition 
by Alasdair MacIntyre.
Duckworth, 241 pp., £12.95, August 1990, 0 7156 2337 0
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Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man 
by David Lehman.
Poseidon, 318 pp., $21.95, February 1991, 0 671 68239 3
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... older books, was hardly read outside the universities, and reported a drop in enrolments. David Lehman’s Signs of the Times similarly notes the ‘disquieting fact that the number of students electing to major in literature has steadily declined over the last twenty years’. The question of ‘theory’ is bound up with this, since, in ...

Hi, Louise!

Stephanie Burt: Frank O’Hara, 20 July 2000

In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art 
by Russell Ferguson.
California, 160 pp., £24.50, October 1999, 0 520 22243 1
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The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets 
by David Lehman.
Anchor, 448 pp., $16.95, November 1999, 0 385 49533 1
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Frank O’Hara: Poet among Painters 
by Marjorie Perloff.
Chicago, 266 pp., £13.50, March 1998, 0 226 66059 1
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... can make the world of the Cedar Tavern seem – in retrospect – a sort of Arcadia in itself. Lehman offers a guided tour. Chapters on Ashbery, O’Hara, Koch (‘our funniest poet … a protean comic genius’) and Schuyler (‘the best-kept secret in American poetry’) precede chapters on the concept of movements in art and of an ‘avant-garde’, a ...

Dancing and Flirting

Mark Ford: Apollinaire, 24 May 2018

Zone: Selected Poems 
by Guillaume Apollinaire, translated by Ron Padgett.
NYRB, 251 pp., £9.99, January 2016, 978 1 59017 924 6
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Selected Poems 
by Guillaume Apollinaire, translated by Martin Sorrell.
Oxford, 281 pp., £9.99, November 2015, 978 0 19 968759 6
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... neck’ (Roger Shattuck); ‘Sun neck cut’ (Beverley Bie Brahic); ‘Let the sun beheaded be’ (David Lehman); ‘Sun sundered head’ (Martin Sorrell); ‘Sun throat cut’ (Ron Padgett). The compression of this lurid image of the dawn must have greatly appealed to Beckett; indeed his streamlined version possibly takes its cue from the phrase, for it ...

The Candidates

Chris Lehmann: Scott, Rick, Ted, Marco and Jeb, 18 June 2015

... most glorious moment in Jeb’s board-padding career. In 2007, he was appointed a consultant at Lehman Brothers. Like all major financial players, Lehman was by then up to its eyeballs in mortgage-backed securities. Two months later, the Florida State Board of Administration’s $1.4 billion in toxic mortgage-backed ...

Magic Beans, Baby

David Runciman, 7 January 2021

A Promised Land 
by Barack Obama.
Viking, 768 pp., £35, November 2020, 978 0 241 49151 5
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... the novel power of social media to drum up interest and financial support. His campaign manager David Plouffe liked to say of Obama’s candidacy: ‘Walking a tightrope without a net … That’s when we are at our best.’ Yet when Obama does make a misstep – and inevitably there are plenty, from dismissing Clinton as ‘likeable enough’, to ...

Down with DWEMs

John Sutherland, 15 August 1991

ProfScam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education 
by Charles Sykes.
St Martin’s, 304 pp., $9.95, December 1989, 0 312 03916 6
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Tenured Redicals: How politics has corrupted our Higher Education 
by Roger Kimball.
HarperCollins, 222 pp., $9.95, April 1991, 0 06 092049 1
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... section of Tenured Radicals to the de Man affair, as an academic cover-up of Watergate dimensions. David Lehman’s Signs of the Times – reviewed here not long ago by Claude Rawson – is a narrative and meditation on the same subject. The tone is less enjoyably sarcastic than Kimball’s, but Lehman too is convinced ...

How Much Is Too Much?

Benjamin Kunkel: Marx’s Return, 3 February 2011

The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism 
by David Harvey.
Profile, 296 pp., £14.99, April 2010, 978 1 84668 308 4
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A Companion to Marx’s ‘Capital’ 
by David Harvey.
Verso, 368 pp., £10.99, March 2010, 978 1 84467 359 9
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... years prompted a shallow revival of Marxism. During the panicky period between the failure of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 and the official end of the American recession in the summer of 2009, several mainstream journals, displaying a less than sincere mixture of broadmindedness and chagrin, hailed Marx as a neglected seer of capitalist crisis. The ...


Daniel Finn: Ireland’s Election, 17 March 2011

... a redeveloped quarter of Dublin’s centre would become the city’s West Bank, telling us that Lehman Brothers had testicles everywhere in the global economy. Kenny’s misjudged remarks strike a note of eccentricity that we can only hope his handlers are unable to drill out of him in office. Take the leaders’ debate: when it was suggested to Kenny that ...

Illuminating, horrible etc

Jenny Turner: David Foster Wallace, 14 April 2011

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace 
by David Lipsky.
Broadway, 320 pp., $16.99, 9780307592439
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The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel 
by David Foster Wallace.
Hamish Hamilton, 547 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 0 241 14480 0
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... gratifying that people die while watching it, round and round for ever, in an endless loop. David Foster Wallace always had trouble finishing his novels. And yet he put in this one a thought so absorbing and delightful that you could easily imagine yourself, like the rat in the experiment, pressing the lever over and over. ‘Thousands of times an ...

Playing Catch Up

Wolfgang Streeck: The German Exception, 4 May 2017

German Economic and Business History in the 19th and 20th Centuries 
by Werner Plumpe.
Palgrave, 367 pp., £86, August 2016, 978 1 137 51859 0
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The Seven Secrets of Germany: Economic Resilience in an Era of Global Turbulence 
by David Audretsch and Erik Lehmann.
Oxford, 229 pp., £22.99, February 2016, 978 0 19 025869 6
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Germany’s Role in the Euro Crisis: Berlin’s Quest for a More Perfect Monetary Union 
by Franz-Josef Meiers.
Springer, 146 pp., £90, November 2016, 978 3 319 37052 1
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... of the Mediterranean EMU member countries began to collapse. Here​ the story is picked up by David Audretsch and Erik Lehmann. They purport to reveal the ‘seven secrets’ that enabled Germany to muster, in the words of their subtitle, ‘economic resilience in an era of global turbulence’. What are these secrets? Lots of small firms ...

The Non-Scenic Route to the Place We’re Going Anyway

John Lanchester: The Belgian Solution, 8 September 2011

... of US debt. The deal on offer to the Republicans was described by the conservative commentator David Brooks as ‘the deal of the century’, offering ‘trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases’: A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth ...

Enabler’s Revenge

David Runciman: John Edwards, 25 March 2010

The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down 
by Andrew Young.
Thomas Dunne, 301 pp., $24.99, January 2010, 978 0 312 64065 1
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Race of a Lifetime: How Obama Won the White House 
by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.
Viking, 448 pp., £25, January 2010, 978 0 670 91802 7
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... the expectations of his staff by being better than they dared hope. When a deeply anxious David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, is emailed a copy of Obama’s speech on race, designed to defuse the rapidly escalating row about the behaviour of his pastor, the Rev. Wright, he fires back a one-line response: ‘This is why you should be ...

The Impermanence of Importance

David Runciman: Obama, 2 August 2018

The World as It Is: Inside the Obama White House 
by Ben Rhodes.
Bodley Head, 450 pp., £20, June 2018, 978 1 84792 517 6
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... said during the 2008 campaign, and it came from the lips of Obama’s Republican opponent. After Lehman Brothers went under in September, just seven weeks before election day, ‘John McCain uttered one of those phrases from which presidential candidates never recover: “The fundamentals of the economy,” he said, “are strong.”’ Rhodes was never near ...

How can it work?

David Runciman: American Democracy, 21 March 2013

... 2008, the presidential election was scheduled to take place just seven weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which precipitated perhaps the most dangerous financial crisis in the history of the republic (as George W. Bush said of his country’s economy at the time, ‘This sucker could go down’). The memoirs of Bush’s secretary of the ...
... and that the offender would be sacked. That’s the language of the new Fleet Street tycoons. David Astor, the former editor of the Observer, wrote in a letter to the Times: ‘To allow a newspaper catering to political sector X of our community to be taken over by a proprietor who is a militant member of political sector Y is, plainly, not in the ...

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